Elsie hung in my room for four days before I spoke with her again.
It was during another one of Mother's invigorating high teas that we next met.
Our company today was Mrs. Hopschick, Mrs. Trent and Darling Harbor, the latest fiancee of Mr. Gore Harbor.
Allow me to explain to you the extra dullness of this event. Mrs. Hopschick was a woman who fussed over fuss, Mrs. Trent a woman who did not care for children who misbehaved or fussed, and dear Darling, a young shrimp of a girl who did not like children...full stop.
This could also be the reason behind her three month marriage to Mr. Harbor.
Still, knowing I owed my mother for allowing me the portrait of Elsie I behaved as best I could during the time.
“Patience,” Said Mrs. Hopschick, smacking her full red lips after enjoying seventeen tiny iced cakes. “I do believe you've changed your picture on the mantle.”
My mother's gaze met mine and held it for a mild moment. It was needless to say she blamed me for this incident
“Yes,” she admitted crisply. “Carla's photograph was getting quite tiresome, but as this tea had to be moved forward three days,” another pointed glare was aimed in my direction. “I did not have the chance to have another taken yet. So I had the florist put together this bunch. It's pleasant,” She tossed a shrewd eye over the floral arrangement which now sat in Elsie's old place. It didn't seem like she thought them pleasant.
“I've never particularly enjoyed bringing weeds into my house,” Mrs. Trent declared. “I don't see the entertainment in keeping the things in stagnant water only to rot.”
The women were insufferable. I sat back in my chair and sighed quietly.
Darling startled furiously with a yelp.
“Child, please do not fidget so, you'll break the chair.”
My gaze moved to the mantle, to the place where Elsie used to sit. If only Elsie were there, if only...
And then I saw her.
Half hidden in the photo of my parents and I, Elsie winked at me.
I was careful not to move, but smiled as best I could in her direction.
She raised one eye brow, as if asking my permission to disrupt the terribly formal tea. I winked as best I could.
“Patience, your daughter's eye is twitching,” twittered Darling frightfully. “You don't suppose she's rabid or something.”
“I should think not,” my mother answered smoothly. “Carla is well behaved, if forgetful. And no child of mine would ever been around an wild beast. I do not keep such animals.”
At that point Elsie began to snort, just like a pig, and jiggle objects in the portrait to sound like an animal crashing around.
“I say, what was that?” Darling cried, leaping to her feet.
My mother's face warmed slightly.
“No animals?” Mrs. Trent said in a condescending tone. “We shall see.”
Both she and Darling moved to peer from the lace covered windows.
“Perhaps it is just that local rag Thomas passing by,” Mrs. Hopschick said, settling comfortably into her arm chair and finishing off the last few cakes. “It's rats you have to worry about. Especially in the walls. In a place as old as this rats in the walls would be horrendous.”
Darling relaxed slightly, tottering back to her seat.
“How ca you tell if there's rats?” She asked unsteadily.
“Scrambles,” Mrs. Hopschick answered. “Scratchings and what in the walls. Sounds like a wet dog in a thunder storm.”
A knocking sound started followed by several scratches on wood and wall paper. Darling's eyes looked ready to fall out.
“I must go, I must!” She chirped in a high tone. “No, no. Can't stay here. Not with, with rats!” She grabbed her purse and hurried out of the parlor.
Mrs. Hopschick looked ready to throw up, a strange look for her. Her eyes were apologetic as she struggled to her feet. My mother stood too.
“It's not. It's not what you think, honest-”
“There, there, Patience,” She said. “But I would have it checked! Rats! And think of the dark places they could hide! The linen, the pantry!” With that final remark she waddled from the room, had on mouth and eyes on the cakes.
Now only Mrs. Trent, my mother and I remained.
“Well,” said Mrs. Trent, a bemused expression on her face. “I will have to inform the members of your next high tea, for health regulations of course,” A wicked smile plagued her thin red-brown lips. “Although it may be better inviting fringe dwellers, such as the Adams, rats would be common place for such company.”
Mrs. Trent swept from the room, her eyes on my mother's steaming, helpless face. She ran, actually ran, to the window and watched the last of her company leave.
“She can't-oh but she will!” she whispered to herself. “What will happen now? Oh I'll be the laughing stock of the town!” She left the room, without a glance in my direction.
I rose from my seat and walked to the mantle where the family smiled from their portrait Elsie had already left, but the photograph of my father handed out a small note. I took it gingerly from his hand, which, like Elsie, moved as though in water, through the glass.
The writing was small, childish. It took a minute to read.
I hope it was actually fun this time